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Mary Magdalene Lite


The phenomenal success of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code is a mystery, and as I love a mystery I’d like to have a go at solving it. Obviously the book is not a literary masterpiece; in fact it’s little more than a good mystery yarn. Therefore if we use the process of elimination and admit that it’s neither more nor less than so many other whodunits on the market, we come to the difference: the subject matter and the characters. The subject matter - the history of Christianity – isn’t unique in fiction, Nikos Kazantzaki’s The Last Temptation being a prime example. Mary Magdalene was also central to that beautiful novel, but it was never a best seller. So why should another novel, inferior to Kazantzaki’s, about Mary Magdalene incite such interest in a worldwide public over 2,000 years after the event?

In The Last Temptation Jesus doesn’t actually marry Mary M., he only dreams that he does, which was enough to bring down the wrath of the Greek Orthodox Church on his head. But the implication in The DaVinci Code is that they did marry and even had descendents. Is that so bad? I think not. Although there’s no evidence whatever that it actually happened and I seriously doubt that it did. Remember that in the famous resurrection scene, when she first thinks he is the gardener, and then realizes who he is, calls him “Raboni” – a diminutive (I assume) of rabbi indicating familiarity and endearment. Would a wife call her husband by his title, even in a familiar form? But even if they were married, why it should create such a scandal - now?

Mary Magdalene has been considered a minor player in the life of Jesus, a repentant whore who washed Jesus’ feet with her hair and was present at the foot of the cross. She was indeed present at the crucifixion and may even have washed his feet, but there’s no indication whatsoever in the Gospels, official ones or others, that she was a whore. She was also the first to see the risen Christ and was sent to inform the others.

It is no secret now, thanks to serious historians of religion, that the early Roman Catholic Church, once it was in power, suppressed the Christian Gnostic Gospels, to the extent that almost all we knew about them was contained in the Church representatives’ diatribes against them. All that changed when in 1945 a shepherd found a clay jar near the town of Nag Hammadi in Egypt. To his disappointment, instead of recognizable treasure it contained only leather-bound papyrus books. Another kind of treasure, but not for him. His mother used some to light the stove at home. But the rest, after passing through the hands of smugglers, black marketers and antiquity dealers, were finally recognized by scholars as priceless Gnostic writings: thirteen codices of fifty-two texts written in an ancient form of Egyptian Coptic, which had been translated from Greek originals dating from the second to the fourth centuries. They weren’t published until 1977. The first popular book describing them was Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels, but there is now a formidable quantity of literature by others as well. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene and The Gospel of Phillip, included in these writings, show Mary Magdalene to have been much more important in the life of Jesus that had been previously thought. In fact, though she wasn’t one of “the twelve”, she was a leading disciple, one whom Jesus loved above all others and to whom he revealed secrets unknown to the rest. This of course doesn’t mean that he was married to her, although the possibility has stimulated modern writers and has made Dan Brown a millionaire.   


If Jesus was merely a talented and holy rabbi, the most normal thing for him to do would be to marry young and have children. But if he was God?...well, that’s different. We can hardly expect God to get married, and certainly not to a prostitute. But The DaVinci code and its main source, Holy blood, Holy Grail, claim that there is evidence that he was. If he wasn’t God, it would be devastating to the Christian churches and comforting to the nay-sayers, atheists and even to the agnostics.

But even before the Gnostic revelations there had been plenty of doubt about Jesus’ divinity. How, after all, could someone who often referred to “my Father” (God), be that same person? And even if he were the Son of God, he could not at the same time be his own father. A mystery, explains the Church. But nowadays we want facts; mysteries fine, but not unsolvable ones.

Rudolf Steiner solves it, in his way:

Jesus of Nazareth was a man among men, not an ordinary one, no, one with a manifest destiny, but nevertheless a man. When he was thirty years old he was baptized by John. At that moment he became divine, for the god (whom we shall call Christ) incarnated in his human body.

“…the individuality who from out the cosmos entered into the body of Jesus of Nazareth, a being who had never before been connected to the earth. In this sense, the events which took place between the thirtieth and the thirty-third year in the life of the Christ Jesus, that is between the John-baptism and the mystery of Golgotha, were events [in the life] of the god Christ, not of a man. Therefore it was not earthly matters which took place, but matters of the supersensible world; for they had nothing to do with a human being. As an indication that they had nothing to do with a human being, the man who lived in that body until the thirtieth year abandoned that body…”

This was the signal event in the history of the earth, for it applied brakes to human spiritual decadence and made it possible for man to reunite with the spiritual world. The whole astonishing story can be found in Steiner’s From Jesus to Christ and his lecture cycles about the Gospels.

You may say, “Hmm, an interesting theory, but where’s the proof?” Answer: no proof in the sense you mean. But is more than a theory. You see, Rudolf Steiner also called his anthroposophy “spiritual science” and “initiation science”, he being the foremost initiate. Therefore these indications were perceived by him directly from the spiritual worlds. You can take that or leave it, but before doing either, I suggest you read his work.

So: was Jesus married? Maybe, maybe not. To Mary Magdalene? Maybe, maybe not. It would be interesting to know, but wouldn’t really change anything – or would it?